Posts Tagged ‘matchbook ads’

A souvenir from the other New York World’s Fair

April 21, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair. There, New Yorkers were introduced to the touch tone phone, caught their first sight of the Unisphere to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and were able to view Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Worldsfair1939matchbook

Amid all the nostalgia for that fair, it’s worth remembering the century’s other New York World’s Fair. The 1939 version, also in Flushing Meadows, captured the imagination of the Depression-era city.

Worldsfair1929matchbookanicin1

This Art Deco souvenir matchbook features the fair’s logo: an image of the Trylon obelisk and 18-story Perisphere, the iconic, futuristic buildings that helped make the fair seem so magical.

Both symbolized the promise of the Machine Age. Yet after the end of the fair, they were scrapped and used for armaments in World War II.

Wow, look at that pill box. No childproof safety features!

Holiday matchbooks from 1930s midtown cafes

December 8, 2012

What better way to let customers know your restaurant honored the Christmas season than by advertising it on a matchbook? These long-gone Manhattan eateries apparently agreed.

If you worked in the vicinity of Lexington Avenue and 41st Street at any point from the 1930s through the 1960s, you may have spent your lunch hour at the no-frills-named President Cafeteria and Tavern.

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“Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner and open until 1a.m., the cafeteria advertised self-service hot meals ‘at reasonable prices’ in a relaxed, casual environment,” writes The Five O’Clock Teaspoon, a fascinating culinary history site.

“The self-proclaimed largest restaurant in the Grand Central Zone, The President was a reliable staple of the Murray Hill neighborhood and was a regular haunt of soon to be luminaries such as the writer Charles Reznikoff and the aspiring actress Susan Hayward.”

Rutleysmatches

Rutley’s matchbook looks festive—but the restaurant sounds a little cut-rate. Opened in 1926, it closed in 1932, an apparent casualty of the Depression and Prohibition. Another Rutley’s, however, existed in the 1940s on Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street.

Vintage matchbook ads for Brooklyn businesses

July 9, 2012

The one downside to the fact that so few people smoke these days? So few businesses hand out free matches as advertising vehicles.

But for most of the 20th century, matchbook ads were a popular way to get a company name and service out there—as these now-defunct Brooklyn businesses did in the 1940s.


Loeser’s was a legendary department store on Fulton Street, Brooklyn’s main shopping strip since the late 19th century. It closed in 1952.

I love this public service ad from Brooklyn Edison—now part of Con Edison, of course—for electric stoves. Cooking “electrically” probably did cut down on kitchen fires.

The Hotel Half Moon was built in 1927 to rival the fancy new hotels going up in Atlantic City. Instead, it hosted conventions, became a maternity hospital in the 1940s, and was torn down in the 1990s to make way for a senior citizen housing.

In 1941, the Half Moon earned a place in mob history: Murder, Inc. turncoat Abe “Kid Twist” Reles plunged to his death from his sixth floor room there under mysterious circumstances.

Mayflower 9-3800! But why was Coney Island’s phone exchange called Mayflower?

When Lower Manhattan had a “Radio Row”

July 15, 2011

The Garment District, Flower District, Swing Street—the city has always been chopped into specialty areas.

And in the 1920s with the rise of broadcast radio, Cortlandt and Dey Streets were home to Manhattan’s radio district, aka Radio Row.

The row was more than that; dozens of shops lined local streets.

“Cortlandt once ran from the Hudson River up to Broadway, but now only one block—from Trinity Place to Broadway—remains,” wrote The New York Times in 1981.

“The rest, displaced by the World Trade Center, was a rabbit warren of electrical shops with books on radios stacked up on sidewalks and piles of tubes, condensers, old radios and old radio cabinets set alongside.”

Radio Row adapted to changing times in the 1950s. Stores that sold televisions and hi-fis moved in alongside the radio shops.

Its demise had little to do with the fall of radio and instead can be blamed on the World Trade Center.

In 1961, politicians called for the use of eminent domain to raze Radio Row’s small blocks so the Twin Towers could be built.

Radio Row’s store owners tried fighting it out in court. They lost, getting just $3,000 each from the state to go elsewhere.

[Top photo: Radio Row in the 1960s, copyright Antique Broadcast Classified. Right: a crowd gathers on November 22, 1963, after JFK is assassinated in this Library of Congress photo]


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